Why every student should learn a foreign language

Scouse or Geordie doesn’t count

The ability to speak a foreign language appears to be a rare commodity nowadays. A lack of emphasis on foreign languages in schools, coupled with the misconception that they won’t “get you a good job”, has resulted in a steady decline of students opting to study languages at degree level.

The truth is, in an increasingly globalised world, us Brits should no longer be resting on the comfortable notion that “everyone speaks English anyway.” It is ignorant and simply untrue. Whether you’re a native speaker, studying languages at university, or simply looking for a new pastime, here are just a few reasons why you should be learning how to speak a modern foreign language.

Disclaimer,* for the purposes of this article, Geordie, Brum and Scouse do not constitute as foreign languages, no matter how difficult they are to understand.

Your employability will immediately go up

You vehemently railed against your French teacher, you refused to do your homework, you dug in your heels, you said “Miss, I don’t care what Jean-Pierre and his mates got up to in ‘La Rochelle’ at the weekend, this is utterly pointless.” I’m sorry to have to be the one to inform you, but you were wrong.

It’s a popular held misconception that languages restrict you to a career in teaching or translating, but the truth is, the ability to speak a foreign language is a cherished and sought after skill, that is applicable to any job. You shouldn’t listen to the philistines that insist their Engineering degree has a ’97 per cent employability rate,’ or the Mathematicians who looks down their noses at you. That’s just how they reconcile it with themselves when they are crying in bed at night. The ability to speak a foreign language can be the ‘pièce de résistance’ on your CV and  will undoubtedly help you stand out in today competitive job market.

Universities are incredibly international

UK Universities are increasingly becoming international hubs, with many holding campuses overseas. Schemes such as Erasmus are also available to students wishing to study abroad in Europe and in many cases, these can even offer students additional funding.

Being able to converse in a foreign language will help you settle into an international, diverse campus, with most universities offering a whole range of different socials and societies offered at those wishing to learn a new language. Alternatively, you might be just able to talk to that exchange student on the third floor of the library, who has almost certainly been giving you the eyes.

Languages are romantic

There’s something inherently sexy about the ability to speak a foreign language. Take any average Joe out on a date and as soon as he whips out the menu and starts asking what the specialities are in Italian, he’s become a cold-blooded lothario and you’ll be swooning.

Oh là là. Even Tony Blair looks remotely cool as he trips over the word ‘problèm’ whilst trying to describe what ‘Brexit’ is on French radio. This concept generally applies to any language, although German would probably have to be an exception to the rule…Entschuldigung!

You get to travel

It might sound distinctly similar to something on a holiday brochure, but the ability to speak a foreign language really does allow you to travel and experience other cultures. Music, movies, food, literature, poetry are just a few of the many benefits tied to this. Brits have an unenviable and unfortunately justified reputation for being ignorant yobs wearing Wayne Rooney football shorts when it comes to tourism.

This perception is exacerbated by our inability to speak any other languages other than our own. The sight of an English tourist painfully stumbling over the words ‘s’il vous plaît’ as he drops his ice cream onto his socks and sandals is one that is all to common.

Languages are more important now than ever

It’s true, being able to speak a foreign language is a pretty impressive party trick, but there is also a more serious point to be made here. In what seems to be an increasingly hostile and protectionist world, there are those that argue that the ability to speak another language, is an outdated and unnecessary skill. On the contrary, this ability is more important now than ever.

It might sound cliché, but taking the time and effort to converse with someone in their own language, is a symbol of empathy and appreciation that transcends big divisive walls and WTO trade tariffs. Languages are the ultimate medium of connection and they will be essential in maintaining and remedying relations with our foreign neighbours and friends in the years ahead. Even if the French can get a bit pissy when you mispronounce certain words.